Friday, November 21, 2008

The dough that wowed~


Whenever we have pizza, stromboli, calzones, etc., I always prefer to make the dough rather than buying it. Not only is it a money saver, but it tastes so much better too! But I also know that making dough is not always in everyone's best interest, especially when it comes to time.

But this dough recipe that I found on BrownEyedBaker really wowed Alex and I. For Alex it was the taste and the fact that it was thin but not to thin, and for me it was working with the dough. There has never in my opinion been a dough easier to roll out even after it has been frozen and thawed.

Here is the recipe for the dough adapted from Baking Illustrated. A couple of notes though, I have used all purpose flour and it has been fine. Also the other day for stromboli I used regular yeast and just let it sit in a warm space for 6 hours. Again it came out great and I always use the stand mixer variation. I think it's quite foolproof. Plus it makes enough for two to three dinners. Now that is time saved in my book:)


Pizza Dough (Source: Baking Illustrated, pages 153-155)


Makes enough for 3 medium pizzas.


We find the food processor is the best tool for making pizza dough. However, only a food processor with a capacity of at least 11 cups can handle this much dough. You can also knead this dough by hand or in a standing mixer (see the variations that follow). Unbleached all-purpose flour can be used in a pinch, but the resulting crust will be less crisp. If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, decrease the yeast to 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (about 68 degrees) until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.


1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast

1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl


1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.


2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.


3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by h and for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.


Pizza Dough Kneaded by Hand

Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.


Pizza Dough Kneaded in a Standing Mixer

Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rollin' Stromboli


I love making stromboli, first and foremost, because it is so simple and so delicious. I have made strombli multiple different ways: with homemade bread dough, rhodes bread dough, traditional, italian and american. Everytime it's delicious.


Last night we needed a quick dinner, so in the morning I threw together a quick batch of bread dough for the stromboli. Last weekend my mom gave us some lunch meat. Though we liek sandwiches, somehow it usually goes uneaten. To ensure it was used before it expired, ham, turkey and cheese stromboli went on the menu.

With the dough rising throughout the day, throwing it together was easy. After arriving home from work I rolled out half the dough and layered turkey, ham and cheese on the dough. Roll it up jellyroll style, seal edges iwht water and pop in the oven...dinner in no time flat. We served it with tomato soup and salad for a filling and nutitious dinner!

Variations we love:
-any pizza style filling, pepperoni and cheese for pepperoni bread
-traditional with salami, cheese, peppers, etc.


Make it your Way Stromboli (adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best Make Ahead)

-1 pound of the dough of your choice
-Fillings of your choice
(approximately 4 ounces of cheese and 1/2 pound of lunch meat)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. You can cover with foil if desired for the first 20 minutes but it is not necessary.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yummy coffee cake!


I like breakfast breads, muffins, coffeecake, you name it, I like it. But we don't have them a lot at our house because they just don't seem to do the trick in sustaining us until lunch...must be all the nutritional value:) Plus, they are not all that quick for a week day morning.

But Sunday, I had plenty of time before church so I quick pulled together a delicious coffeecake. The best part about this, is that it is made from cake mix, so it's really quick and easy.

I found the recipe on Picky Palate, and this hit the mark. She calls it a clone on Starbucks coffeecake while I'm just calling it New York Crumb Cake. Either way, it's delicious any time of the day! I chose to divide the cake mix in half like I usually do to scale down the size. I made it in an 8 inch square pan, and we still have plenty leftover.


New York Crumb Cake (adapted from picky palate)

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix (plus ingredients on back of box)

2 Sticks cold salted butter

2 1/4 Cups flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

1 ¾ Cups sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla

Powdered sugar (for dusting)

PREHEAT oven to 350.

PREPARE cake mixe in large bowl according to directions on box. Spray 9X13 pan with non-stick spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until center is just barely set.

WHILE cakes are baking, prepare crumb topping. In large bowl of electric mixer combine, butter, flour, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla until all crumbly.

IMMEDIATELY after cake is removed from oven, break crumb topping into marble size pieces with fingers, sprinkling over top. Put back in oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes (topping will begin to look a little less wet/raw). Let cool fully then dust with powdered sugar, using a sieve.

CUT into squares and serve.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Loving Bacon in Spaghetti Carbonara


We love italian food and Alex loves bacon. So for an easy dinner, quick and delicious, Spaghetti Carbonara hit the mark. All you need is a little bacon, some fettucini, cream, eggs, and parmesan, and a delicious dinner is on the table in no time flat.


Lately I have been cooking a lot from the Everyday Food magazine. Not only do the recipes rely on ingredients most have on hand, they are quick, easy, and delicious!

Spaghetti Carbonara (Everyday Food, 2007)
Serves 4
1 pound spaghetti (i used buitoni fresh fettucini)
8 ounces (8 slices) bacon, cut 1 inch thick crosswise
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup half-and-half

Directions

Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Salt boiling water generously; add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and half-and-half. Set aside.

Drain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to egg mixture.
Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Orange chicken ...so yummy


So finally the house is done! We are finally finished remodeling a now 3500 square foot house here in the cities. It was a huge project but worth all the sweat. Now we hope it sells. But now that we are finished, eating out and crock pot meals will no longer grace our table. I am so glad to be back in the kitchen and making healthy, nutritious meals for Alex and I.


I have really been challenged to try and make healthy meals while not spending a fortune at the grocery store. About a month ago, we went on a huge grocery spree, buying up all sorts of staples. Now it is my goal to make healthy and nutritious meals for around $20 a week in groceries. Wish me luck...I think I can do it!


Last week I made this meal that I found on Annie's Eats. Her website is so inspiring with all the yummy looking food. This was a huge hit at our house...only a few changes and the meal was complete.


Orange Chicken (adapted from Annie's Eats)
Ingredients:
For the marinade and sauce:
1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces (i used breast meat)
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
6 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
i added chopped scallions and some peanuts to the finished product

For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut oil (or canola oil) (i only used 1/4 C of canola)

Directions:

For the marinade and sauce, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper; whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and pour it into the bag with the chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the orange peel (if using); set the sauce aside.

For the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and beat with a fork until frothy. In a second pie plate, whisk together the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne until combined. Drain the chicken in a colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the dredged chicken pieces on another plate or a baking sheet.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- to 12-inch dutch oven or straight sided sauté pan with at least 3 qt. capacity over high heat until the oil reaches 350° on an instant read or deep fry thermometer. Carefully place half of the chicken in the oil; fry to golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return the oil to 350° and repeat with the remaining chicken.

To serve, reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Apricot pork chops hit the dinner table!


My husband is not the biggest fan of pork. He is not a picky eater, but pork just doesn't ever set him swooning. Me on the other hand, I don't mind it, especially when it is cooked well. But last week our local grocer had a great deal on pork so I stocked up on tenderloins and chops. Why you might ask if my hubby doesn't like it? Well because he doesn't always get what he wants:)

So the other night in need of a quick meal for dinner, I spied this recipe on Brianna's site for Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops. Knowing that the sweet and spicy glaze might just be the thing to make the pork shine, I went for it. Ready in 30 minutes or less this dish is so good. My hubby even decided that pork was not that bad.

We served these with buttered egg noodles and fresh steamed broccoli. These will definitely be chosen again in this house!

Apricot Glazed Pork Chops (from Brianna)

Ingredients

1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup Apricot preserves
1 tablespoon lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Boneless Pork Chops, Fat trimmed

In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, ginger, soy sauce and water until smooth. Stir in the apricot, oil,lime juice and garlic until blended. Bring to a boil; cook and stir mixture for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

In a large oven safe skillet, add the pork chops browning slightly on each side, about a minute each. Add the apricot glaze. Transfer the pork chops to the oven, uncovered, at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until pork juices run clear.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get out the BBQ sauce, there's a burger waiting!


I love, love , love barbecue sauce...homemade, out of a jar, it really doesn't matter, it's all delicious, especially when grilling season comes around.

One of my favorites is barbecue chicken pizza from Pizza Luce here in the cities. They call their's the Wrangler Pizza, and it is delicious! Crispy crust topped with barbecue sauce, loads of thinly sliced chicken, Monterrey jack and mozzarella cheese, thin slices of red onion and banana peppers...they make the pizza!

So a couple of months ago I decided to try and make a burger resembling the taste of barbecue chicken pizza, and the result, AMAZING! Try it for yourself if you wish...I served our burgers atop crisp buns topped with red onion and jack cheese, accompanied by chipotle slaw, so good!

Barbecue Chicken Burgers (by me)

1 lb. Lean Ground Chicken
1/4 C finely chopped banana peppers
salt and pepper
1 T barbecue grill seasoning

1/2 C barbecue sauce for basting the burgers while grilling

Monterrey Jack cheese, slices of red onion, hamburger buns, and more BBQ sauce for dipping


Grill as normal, basting every time you flip or every couple of minutes with BBQ sauce, top with toppings and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Potstickers or dumplings, either way they are delicious!


A couple of weeks ago, after the fried cheese, I was contemplating potstickers for a way to use up the leftover wonton wrappers. I saw a recipe in Cooks Illustrated for potstickers, but for some reason I have always been intimidated!


Well on a Tuesday night I found myself trying to find a plan for dinner and knowing Alex would be home late, I decided ot tackle the dumplings. I don't know what I was so nervous for, they are so simple and easy to put together.


Though I like dumplings more (steamed) the hubby is a fan of potstickers (pan-fried) so potstickers it was. They were delish! In the end we decided they needed a littl emore punch of flavor but that is easy to remedy, so I would think we will be making these again!

Pork Potstickers (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Filling
3 cups minced napa cabbage leaves (about ½ medium head)
¾ teaspoon table salt
¾ pound ground pork
4 minced scallions (about 6 tablespoons)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepperDumplings
36 round potsticker wrappers (see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water, plus extra for brushing

Instructions:

Toss cabbage with the salt in colander set over a bowl and let stand until cabbage begins to wilt, about 20 minutes. Press the cabbage gently with rubber spatula to squeeze out any excess moisture, the transfer to a medium bowl. (If you can't get moisture to release, squeeze cabbage with hands.)

Add the remaining filling ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until mixture is cold, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Working with 4 potsticker wrappers at a time (keep the remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap), fill, seal, and shape the dumplings using a generous 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling per dumpling. Transfer the dumplings to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling; you should have about 24 dumplings. (The dumplings can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 month. Once frozen, the dumplings can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer; do not thaw before cooking.)

Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels; set aside.

Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over the bottom of a 12-inch nonstick skillet and arrange half of the dumplings in the skillet, with a flat side facing down (overlapping just slightly if necessary). Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook the dumplings, without moving, until golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, add ½ cup of the water, and cover immediately. Continue to cook, covered, until most of the water is absorbed and the wrappers are slightly translucent, about 10 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, without stirring, until the dumpling bottoms are well browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Slide the dumplings onto the paper towel-lined plate, browned side facing down, and let drain briefly. Transfer the dumplings to a serving platter. Let the skillet cool until just warm, then wipe it clean with a wad of paper towels and repeat step 3 with the remaining dumplings, oil, and water.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Asian Style Meatballs


When Alex and I were dating, I went to a restaurant we were thinking about as a caterer, for lunch with his mother in Stillwater. I ordered an asian salad that had a skewer of glazed pork meatballs on top. They were so delicious! The flavor was that of a potsticker, but better because of the glaze.

With a pound of ground chicken in the freezer I decided to try and recreate the flavor of that delicious meal. I mixed asian flavors into the meatballs and added a few plain breadcrumbs as a binder. The end product was really quite good. We had them over white rice with a little steamed broccoli on the side.

While I don't know if I would make them the same again, I am already thinking about how I could make them better!

Asian Style Meatballs

1 pound ground chicken
2 scallions minced
1/4 C plain breadcrumbs
1/4 C hoisin sauce
3 T soy sauce
1 T minced ginger
1/2 crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Form into golf ball sized balls and place on broiler pan. Heat broiler to high and place broiler pan on rack, closer to the bottom. Let cook for 10 minutes, turn meatballs and cook for 5-10 minutes more. Remove from oven, brush with glaze.

Glaze

In a small saucepan combine 3 T hoisin sauce, 2 T soy sauce, 1-2 T cornstarch, 2 T sugar, 1 t ginger, 1/2 C chicken broth, 2 T chile garlic sauce

Heat over low heat and reduce, adding as much cornstarch for a glaze texture. Using a pastry brush, brush meatballs with glaze. Use rest of glaze for pouring over rice.

Black Bean Quesadillas!


These are so delicious! A couple of months ago, I found a similar recipe in a Cooks Illustrated email. There was a demonstration video on making quesadillas, and because mine just never come out quite right, my eyes were glued to the computer screen.

One thing jumped out on me during preparation and that was how to make the tortillas crispy. I always thought you needed to use oil or butter and because of that, quesdadillas really never hit our table except for a quick lunch. What was the trick for crispy tortillas? Letting them sit on a hot skillet, unprepped, until air bubbles form, then flip. The result, so good quesdadillas!

And the best part, the combinations are now endless! We've made chicken, black bean, bacon and cheese...try them, you'll see how great they are!


Black Bean Quesdadillas

1 Can of Black Beans/diced chicken cooked/diced bacon cooked
2 C Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded
1/2 red onion, minced
1/4 Bell Pepper, minced
1/4 C frozen corn
Salt and Pepper
1/4-1/2 t adobo chile powder (chile powder will also work or cumin)
4 Fajita size flour tortillas

Minced cilantro/sour cream/guacamole/salsa/etc. for the fixins

1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes
2. Add one tortilla, let sit on skillet until large air bubbles form, flip. When air bubbles form again, remove from skillet and repeat with remaining tortillas.
3. In skillet, spray with cooking spray or add a little oil. Add onions and bell pepper, season addording to your tastes, cook about 5 minutes or until soft and beginning to blacken. Remove from skillet.
4. Add corn to skillet, no oil, let blacken on skillet for about 5 minutes.
5. Add pepper/onion mixture to corn along with black beans, season with chile powder, cook until beans are warm, remove from skillet.
6. Place one tortilla in skillet, cover 1/2 with cheese, spoon bean mixture on cheese, top with more cheese, fold in half and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Continue with rest.
At this point, you can place cooked quesadillas on a cookie sheet and place under broiler on low, to keep warm.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fried Cheese...Delish!


My husband and I are both from Wisconsin, and though we like cheese, that's not the reason for this connection. He is from Milwaukee and in Milwaukee is a restaurant known for thier BBQ, Saz's. Well, hubby and I love the restaurant for other reasons, for their Mozzarella Sticks. They are just like these, which I found on Our Sweet Life, mozzarella enrobed in wonton wrappers.

Quick, easy and so delicious. I even think you could bake them if you didn't want to fry them, I'd say 400* would work just great. Try them, you know you want to!

Fried Cheese

Wrap a string cheese in an egg roll wrapper

Lay one string cheese on one egg roll wrapper diagonally so the cheese starts at one corner and ends at the opposite. Roll up like a burrito and seal with water or egg.

Fry in a frying pan using oil (vegetable or olive oil heated to about 350) until golden.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Refreshing Thai Salad


After weeks of eating away from home, clean, fresh food is what my body craves. This last vacation was no exception and after three weeks I was ready to hit the kitchen. This salad is inspired by fresh Summer or Spring rolls. I love spring rolls...to me they are fresh and clean, and oh so wonderful.

I threw this salad together for lunch with some rice noodles I already had cooked. They only take a couple of minutes so they are great for a quick meal. I just chopped up things I had on hand and then topped it off with some TJ Soy Ginger dressing. It was YUM! So far I have had this for four meals, it's that good.
Thai Spring Roll Salad
(serves 1)

1/2 C rice noodles, cooked
3/4 C chopped green cabbage/romaine mix
1/4 C chopped cilantro
shredded carrot/cucumber to your liking
1/4 C celery chopped on the bias
1 T chopped peanuts

garnish with chow mein noodles if desired

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back from vacation with pancakes!


Well after a being gone for three weeks, it's good to be back. The hubby and I traveled to Europe for a golf lovers dream vacation. It was such a fab trip, we had a magnificent time! London, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were beautiful but as with any vacation it's great to be back.

For one that loves to cook, it's just great to be back in the kitchen. The second morning after returning we had pancakes for breakfast. After three weeks of eggs, toast, tea and fruit, we needed something not on the English menu. This is my mom's recipe, and they are so delicious. They are light and thin and full of flavor. As a kid they were what I requested every chance I could, and even the hubs, a non-pancake fan, loved them!

Momma's Pancakes

1 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/3 C milk
2 T oil

Combine all in a bowl.

Heat skillet/griddle, spray with cooking spray, pour scant 1/4 C of batter on griddle. Flip when bubbly...enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

There is going to be quite a break here at Bliss Bounty. The hubby and I are on our way to Great Britain for the "boys trip" of a lifetime, that is if you are a golf fan.

We will be touring England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for three weeks while taking a break to be spectators at the British Open!

See you on the flip side:)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sinfully delicious, Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies!


Why dub these sinfully delicious, well if they were not so hard to resist, so tempting, well then they wouldn't be sinful. Instead these are AMAZING, and will not stick around long at our house. These are potluck, bring a dessert, welcome a neighbor brownies. You must take them and leave them, or you may be in trouble. Sometimes I wish I hadn't happened upon the recipe from Baking Blonde . Her family's recipe is now our family favorite:)

The moist brownies are baked up and during the last five minutes and layer of mini marshmallows are sprinkled on top and placed back in the oven. After five or so minutes, take a buttered knife and spread the marshmallows out and then top with the delicious chocolate marshmallow frosting...YUM!

The only change I made was to substitute boxed brownie mix for the brownies, just to quicken things up. I have made these a couple of times so far, once with M&M's atop the marshmallows, once with chopped peanut butter cups, and once without anything. Also one of the times I made CI Light Fudge Brownies as a stand in to the mix, verdict: both were great, though the mix is great when you need them ASAP! To make them even more decadent I always add chocolate chips to the brownie mix. Try them, you will love them too!

Frosted Marshmallow Brownies (as adapted from Baking Blonde)

(I haven't made the brownies in this recipe, but have used my own)

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS baking cocoa

3-4 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350.
Lightly grease a 9×13 pan with PAM
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla beat until fluffy.
In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to creamed mixture. spread in greased 9×13 pan.
Bake for 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows, return to oven 2-3 mintues, or just until marshmallows are soft.
Remove from oven. Using a knife dipped in water spread the metled marshmallows evenly over bars.

Frosting

3/4 stick butter
6 TBS Milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup mini marshmallows or 4-6 large marshmallows
1/2 cup Chocolate chips (maybe upto 3/4 cup depending how chocolatey you want it)

Combine ingredients (except marshmallows and chocolate chips) in medium saucepan and melt over medium low heat. Stir constantly until combined. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.
Add marshmallows and chocolate chips
Stir until marshmallows and chips are melted.
Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken slightly (can set in sink of cold water to speed up process). Pour and spread over marshmallows on bars.
Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Simply Spring Dinner~



Last night was the perfect night...clear, warm but not hot, and a slight breeze. With the lake in view and a glass of wine in hand, it was perfect. To make the night even better we took our dinner outside to enjoy and enjoy it we did.

On the menu was an old recipe I cut out from Cooking Light, Rotini with Asparagus, Tomatoes, and Chicken. Paired with a red from Northern Vineyards, where we were married, a mixed green salad and some bread, it was perfectly simple and perfectly spring!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did:)

Rotini with Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomatoes
8 ounces uncooked rotini pasta
Cooking Spray
1 Pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Cup (1-inch) sliced Asparagus
2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 T chopped Fresh Basil
2 T Balsamic Vinegar
1 T Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C crumbled goat cheese (we used fresh mozzarella)

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken and asparagus to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in pasta, basil, vinegar, and oil. Arrange 2 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

CALORIES 419(20% from fat); FAT 9.5g (sat 3.2g,mono 4.1g,poly 1.6g); IRON 3.2mg; CHOLESTEROL 70mg; CALCIUM 105mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.5g; SODIUM 324mg; PROTEIN 33.9g; FIBER 3.4g

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TWD: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

What a great treat! Easy to put together, fool proof, and quick to the table. This will be made time and time again for a quick and light dessert!

I pulled the crust together pretty quickly in the food processor and used the press in method for filling the tart pan. The crust is quite cookie like, instead of pastry like which I love. It's reminiscent of the fruit pizza we make.

As for the glaze, well we were pulling this together on the fly and after perusing the refrigerator, smuckers was the top choice for jam. (not that I didn't mind!) Down went the smuckers, pile on the strawberries, top with fresh whipped cream...yum! I love summer:)

Next week:

Caroline of A Consuming Passion has chosen…

Peppermint Cream Puff Ring on pages 290-292

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies, Ooh la la!



C'est Magnifique!

A few years ago I spent my summer in Toulouse...it was wonderful, just like these brownies. There is something intriguing about the French, life giving. My two new found friends Marine and Clemance, adopted my friend Brittany and I as their new best friends giving us tours and even taking us to their home, where we made M&M cookies in their kitchen. It was an amazing experience and probably where my true love of food emerged.

There is something wonderful about sweeping through French markets, smelling the freshly made boule miche from the boulangerie, passing tarts upon tarts, perfectly executed, and watching the people delight in their food.

Upon return, my love for food grew, and though I never had a french brownie while I was there, I am sure they would not be disappointed with Dorie's version!



I love brownies, to me they are better than a cookie or a cake. I like my brownies fudgy, undercooked, and full of chunks, chocolate chunks, oreos, peanut butter, whatever as long as its loaded, just don't hand me one without any fun inside:)

Given my likes and dislikes, I only changed a couple of things in the recipe:
-I did not mix the eggs and sugar for 2 minutes, only about 45 seconds
-I dislike raisins, so dried cherries were substituted
-No flaming cherries in this kitchen, so they went in unscathed
-B/C more chocolate is essential, in went 1/2 C chocolate chips (semi and white)

End result...love at first taste...these are so good, moist, fudgy, and delicious!

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A sesame smash...Lighter Sesame Chicken



We like just about every kind of cuisine, but the top three have to be Italian, Mexican, and Asian. This meal was great. Last week, after so many other things taking up my time, dinner was the last thing on my mind. So what to do...well with chicken thawing and broccoli needing to be used, I turned to good old Martha Stewart. This recipe for Lighter Sesame Chicken was in Everyday Food awhile back and though definitely not authentic, this dish won high ratings with the hubby. The sauce contributes the flavor, so definitely double the sauce so there is enough to go around.

Easy, Delicious, light, and pretty on the plate, what more could you ask for...we'll be making this again, maybe even soon!

Lighter Sesame Chicken
(adapted from Everyday Food; changes in italics)
Serves 4
  • 3/4 cup brown rice (we used white)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used sesame oil)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced (I also added cut up green beans)
  1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
  4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A twist on the taco!



We are big fans of tex-mex, authentic mexican, and everything in-between. Last week we revisited a recipe I made last year, before the blog. The recipe is for Beef Carnitas and is from Cooking Light. We call it barbacoa, but only because carnitas to us screams pork. It's great, perfect for adding your own spice preferences and the end product turns out nice and tender, perfect for a taco.

We add homemade tomato salsa and serve cilantro lime rice on the side. Yum!

Beef Carnitas (adapted from Cooking Light)

(my changes in italics)

1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
large unpeeled orange wedge
1 T Cumin ( I added these spices)
1 t cayenne pepper

1/2 t chipotle chili powder

Preparation

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add beef; sauté 5 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides. Stir in broth, sugar, salt, and pepper; nestle orange section into beef mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Remove and discard orange. Continue simmering, uncovered, 8 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently.

Yield

4 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 180(40% from fat); FAT 8g (sat 3g,mono 3.4g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 22.2g; CHOLESTEROL 71mg; CALCIUM 16mg; SODIUM 320mg; FIBER 0.4g; IRON 2.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 3.5g

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Honey Pecan Sticky Buns!




This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen chose Honey Pecan Sticky Buns for our recipe of the week. These rich and delicious rolls are made from brioche dough that is made ahead first and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, rolled and then cut. The resulting roll is rich, buttery and reminiscent of a French pastry.



The dough is quite time consuming but the result is a very tender, buttery loaf that I think tastes quite similarly to a croissant. My husband loved them, probably due to the large amounts of butter in both recipes! The taste is tender and almost melts in your mouth. I actually defied Dorie and split the recips in half. I don't think it made a difference in the overall end product, but getting the dough to release from the stand mixer was a little difficult. So half of my half became sweet rolls and the other a mini loaf of brioche. Just enough to satisfy!



These were quite good and rich, but I didn't think they were amazing. That is probably due to the fact that I don't really care for butter. Gasp! Probably because I grew up on margarine! Gasp! Now as an adult I prefer butter to margarine, but it's not a love relationship! If company were coming I would think about it, that is if I could find a quicker brioche recipe.

Next week with TWD Di’s Kitchen Notebook has chosen…French Chocolate Brownies on pages 92-93.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out asbest you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glae recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.



Monday, May 26, 2008

Baking up a storm!




Happy Memorial Day~

Thanks Grandpa for fighting in World War II and to all the other soldiers/veterans who have served our country!

During the past week there has been some action in the kitchen at our house! With Alex working more on the house and more lunches to be packed, cookies have become a favorite for him. Not much of a sweet tooth, the work he has been doing has been changing that. Watch out Cookie Monster. Last week he chose Magic Blondies for his dessert! These were full of chunks: chocolate, coconut, walnuts, and dried cherries. They were delicious out of the oven, but as the days wore on, they became a little dry. If made again, I think I would make them as cookie bars!



Well, I can't just lay all of this on him, we have had quite a few guests out to our house. A couple of weeks ago, some friends from our small group came out to help Alex put our dock and boat lift in. Cookies were our dessert, the Dark Chocolate Cherry cookies...yum! These are a dark chocolate cookies chock full of tart dried cherries and rich bittersweet chunks. They were good, but I thought they could have been better.

This week we had his parents over for dinner and his mother requested cookies. Well here favoite ice cream is Caramel Cashew, so what better cookie to make than the Caramel Cashew Cookie. (photo to come) These were so delicious. Toothsome, chewy and full of flavor. A winner for everyone!

I am a little sick of cookies, but we shall see what this short week holds!

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries
Source: Martha Stewart

1 ¾ cups flour
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
¾ firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 1 cup of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
1 ½ cups dried sour cherries, firmly packed (9 ounces) (I used 1 cup of peanut butter chips)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well-combined. Do not overbeat. Fold in the chocolate and cherries with a wooden spoon.

Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet and bake until puffed and cracked, 9-11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

* Dough can be frozen up to one month ahead. Thaw completely before baking. __________________

Find Magic Blondie Recipe in Martha Stewart's Cookies-The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share
__________________
Cashew-Caramel Cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups roasted, salted cashews
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
1 stick unsalted butter, softened - 8 tablespoons
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24 cubes soft caramel candy
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, sift flour and salt together. Coarsely chop 1 cup cashews and set aside. Process remaining 1 1/2 cups cashews in a food processor until finely chopped. Gradually pour oil into the feed tube. Process until mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes.

Put cashew mixture, butter, and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually add flour mixture. Mix in reserved chopped cashews.

Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place on parchment covered baking sheets about 2" apart. Bake 6 minutes; gently flatten with a 1 cup measuring cup. I tried using a spatula but it was too big - a metal cup worked much better. If they begin to stick when you are pressing down, make sure to wipe the bottom before moving to the next cookie. Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies; let set. The caramel will not get hard so you can't stack these. Store them in single layers for the best result.

Makes 36 cookies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seoul-ful Chicken and Minted Cucumbers




This dish was delicious! I found this recipe in my Cooking Light magazine and I knew that I would try it. It included flavors we love and it looked like it would come together quickly.

About a month ago we bought an investment property, a house to be exact. Alex being a remodeler was excited to get his hands dirty and start renovating. It is so much fun to watch it all come together and to see him so happy. Because of this we have had to make some of our meals more portable. You see, the new house and our house are about 45 minutes apart in traffic and I work five minutes from the new house. With a mini charcoal grill and a microwave, there are only so many hamburgers and leftovers to be made.

That's where this delicious recipe comes in. I was able to marinate the meat overnight, make the cucumbers and the rice the night before, and transport all of this the next day to the fridge at the new house for dinner. The chicken took about 15 minutes on the grill. Pop the rice in the microwave and spoon on the cucumbers, and voila, there's dinner!

This dish was tasty, quick and easy. My changes are in blue!

Seoul-Ful Chicken and Minted Cucumbers (adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

Cucumbers:
1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups) used regular
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced shallots omitted, used minced garlic instead
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint omitted
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
added salted peanuts

Chicken:
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds) used skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Preparation

1. To prepare cucumbers, place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing well. Drain 1 hour. Place cucumber slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Combine cucumber, shallots, and next 6 ingredients (through chile) in a large bowl; toss gently. Cover and set aside.

2. To prepare chicken, place each chicken thigh between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to soy sauce mixture in bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 4 thighs in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 thighs. Place 2 thighs and 1/2 cup cucumbers on each of 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 262(31% from fat); FAT 8.9g (sat 1.9g,mono 3g,poly 2.8g); PROTEIN 29.9g; CHOLESTEROL 115mg; CALCIUM 40mg; SODIUM 502mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 2.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Going back, Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits



These are so yummy! I joined TWD after they had chosen these and knew I would have to make them some time soon. I am a biscuit lover, in fact the first Dorie recipe that I tried were her biscuits. I love her word imagery, using your fingers to meld the butter into the dry ingredients. This type of cooking takes me back...makes me excited...I am creating something with my own hands that will taste so delicious. It's right up there with making your own bread by scratch, no mixer involved:)

This week Tara from Smells Like Home chose madeleines. Because I do not have a madeleine pan, I decided that this was the week to make the biscuits. While Alex was away meeting with the guys, I whipped these up in no time. The only substitutions I made were to use walnuts instead of pecans, only because I had them on hand and I added a dash of cinnamon.

Try them with jam or jelly, butter or cream cheese, these are seriously good and just sweet enough.

Next week: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns chosen by Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen
Last week: Florida Pie chosen by Dianne of Dianne’s Dishes

This week: Madeleines or an old recipe

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” p.25)

(Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between– and that’s just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading– 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even– a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting– just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The perfect spring dinner!





Last week, Alex and I had one of the easiest and yet tastiest meals for dinner. It started out as a brainstorm of fajitas during the day, but they just sounded too dull and ordinary. So once I arrived home from work I asked Alex to throw the chicken on the grill and came up with some tasty salsa to top the fajita tacos.

This meal comes together in no time, perfect for a spur of the moment dinner. Since we have been carpooling lately, dinners need to be relatively quick. So the night before we ate I threw some chicken in the refrigerator with some mesquite marinade. The same Lawry's marinade I used earlier in the week. Usually I would put some things together to make a marinade but when life is busy, nothing beats a bottle to save time. After 24 hours in the marinade the chicken comes out so moist and delicious.

While the chicken was being grilled I tossed some corn on the cob in some water to cook and sauteed some yellow bell peppers and red onions in some EVOO. While they were cooking on the stove, it was time to make the salsa. Tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno...yum!
Perfect Spring Salsa

1/2 avocado, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/4 C cilantro, minced
salt and pepper
lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, salt/pepper/lime juice to taste. Serve over chicken with lettuce, in a tortilla. yum. or enjoy with chips:)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mesquite Chicken with Roasted Corn Salsa



Last week here in Minnesota, the weather was gorgeous and great for grilling. Anxious to fire up the grill, I set out chicken to thaw in the morning and let my mind wander throughout the day over what to make.

The week before I made Cook's Illustrated's Black Bean Quesadillas, which were delicious and combined black beans with a roasted corn mixture. The flavors were complex and tasted so good that I wanted to try and replicate it as a salsa to accompany the chicken. Because our meal had to be relatively quick I relied upon Lawry's Mesquite Marinade for the chicken. I left that to sit as I prepared the salsa and the Cumin Spiced fries with Chipotle ketchup! Dinner was ready in 30 minutes and tasted so delicious!

Mesquite Chicken and Roasted Corn Salsa

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Lawry's Mesquite Marinade

1/2 C frozen corn
1 tomato minced
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper minced
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 T minced cilantro

1. Place chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour half the bottle of marinade over. Marinate for 20 minutes, then place on a preheated grill and cook for 10 minutes, turning once.
2. While chicken is marinating, set a medium skillet on the stove and add frozen corn. Allow corn to sizzle and pop until it begins to char. Remove corn from skillet.
3. Pour olive oil in skillet and add onion and red pepper. Saute until softened and charred. Add corn back into skillet, season with salt and pepper, and mix in chopped tomato and cilantro. Stir for one minute, allowing flavors to incorporate and then remove from heat and plate alongside of the cooked chicken.
Cumin Spiced Fries with Chipotle Ketchup

Fries:

3 Large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 T cumin
1/2 t ancho chile powder

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place potatoes and following ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Shake to thoroughly coat. Place on large cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

Chipotle Ketchup

1/2 C ketchup
1 T minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1. Mix together and serve with fries.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The best chocolate chip cookies!




This past weekend we put our house on the market and had our first open house. So what else to make, but cookies so the house smells so wonderfully delicious you just want to buy it:) Well there were not any buyers, some lookers, but the cookies did thir job and the house smelled delicious. So much so that Alex got a bellyache from the four he ate!



These are so delicious! When Alex and I were at Disney World I bought a cookie and it was really yummy. When we returned home, I happened upon a copycat recipe of these same cookies on the cookiemadness website. She makes some of the greatest cookies and I love reading about all the different kinds she tries. But these are a winner in my book because they are thick, chewy and chock full of chips. My other favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is the Cooks Illustrated Chewy Chocolate Chip, but these are right up there in the cookie all of fame!

I doubled the recipe and came out with 16.

Here is the recipe thanks to Anna at Cookie Madness:

Super Small Batch Extra Large Chunk Cookies

4 tablespoons very hot melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons beaten egg (break egg, mix it with fork, measure)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (reduce slightly if using salted butter
3/4 cup flour, spooned and swept
1 teaspoon water (optional)
2-3 tablespoons white chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ½ sandwich cookies, broken into chunks (can use nuts instead)
Broken up milk chocolate bar, milk chocolate chips, M&M’s, candies of choice

In a bowl, stir together hot butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar until smooth. If still very hot, let cool for about a minute, then stir in egg. Beat with a spoon until egg is fully mixed then stir in vanilla, baking soda and salt. Add flour and stir just until mixed. If dough seems too dry (falling apart), add the water. Stir in white chips, chocolate chips and broken cookies. Shape dough into a fat log of about 5 inches log. Chill for 1 hour. Carefully cut log into 4 equal pieces (each should weigh 3 ½ oz). If chunks of cookies and chips fall out, just stick them back onto the cut pieces.

Place cut pieces, spaced about 4 inches away from each other, 4 to a sheet, on an ungreased (I use insulated) cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven and arrange a few more semi-sweet chunks plus some milk chocolate chunks on top – the candy will melt and adhere to the cookie. Cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Let the cookies sit around for a while to set. Once set, you can wrap them up in plastic wrap and give them away.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tasty Dinner, Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine



A couple of weeks ago I made this recipe as a quick dinner and as a way to use up some chicken thighs we had in the freezer. We love recipes that incorporate lemon and chicken. Yum! This recipe was great for a weeknight and when paired with parmesan orzo and some green beans it's perfect. I cut the recipe in half and there was just enough for us to eat that night and have leftovers for Alex to have the next day.

One thing I enjoyed about the dish was that there was plenty of sauce to drizzle over the top and soak into the parmesan orzo. Because we were out of white wine, I used chicken broth with a little white wine vinegar. I am looking forward to the day we have white wine on had so I can try this again!


Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine

Source: Everyday Food, Serves 4

8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 2 3/4 pounds) (I used boneless)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
Cooked rice, for serving (optional)

1. In a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid, arrange thighs, bone side up; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, wine, and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook, 30 minutes. (the meat cooked a little quicker, due to no bone)

2. Turn chicken over. Place a lemon slice on each piece; cover and continue simmering until tender, about 15 minutes. Leaving garlic and liquid in skillet, transfer chicken and lemon slices to a platter. Cover tightly with foil to keep warm.

3. Bring liquid in skillet to a boil; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Add butter, parsley, and lemon juice; stir until butter has softened and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce and, if desired, rice.


Creamy Parmesan Orzo

(adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted (I omit)

Preparation:

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte!




This week at our house has been super busy. A couple of weeks ago we bought a new house as an investment property that will go back on the market in August. My husband is a remodeler, so it is right up his alley. But between our commitments and obligations, finding time to bake or cook for that matter, has been few and far between. But when I can, I embrace it!

This weekend our church had it's women's conference and I was in charge of feeding the 400! It went so well and it was so neat to serve with such amazing women. Well that being said not much time was left for the torte. But last night after finalizing the order on cabinets around 9pm I hit the grocery for the heavy cream and the torte making began!

My husband who had been working all day and night for the past week was looking at me like I was crazy, but like I said give me an opportunity to cook or bake when things are crazy and I will take it. For me, it's like going to the spa. There is something calming in the whir of the KitchenAid.

It came together so beautifully, no problems, and I quartered the recipe, which still produced plenty of filling! The crust was a little crumbly when I tried plating the first piece this morning but all in all it was again a great, relatively easy recipe with seemingly fabulous results. I did have one little taste and for me it's a little too rich and I love peanut butter. So I don't know if I would make it again. I actually prefer my peanut butter torte with the ice cream better:

My picture does not give this very rich dessert the honor it deserves, so go over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see all of the other gorgeous tortes!

Peanut Butter Torte
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

1 ¼ cups finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ cups mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used salted butter)
Small pinch of salt (I omitted this)
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ cups salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy) (I used creamy/smooth)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte:
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 6-8 Servings